Grand Lodge of Massachusetts

New to the Collection: Blood Donor Recognition Pin

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Blood Donation Lapel Pin. ca. 1983. Gift of Kamel Oussayef, 2022.049a-b.

New to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection this month is a small gold-colored lapel pin bearing a square and compasses and a “G” in blue enamel. Masonic lapel pins are abundant in both members’ homes and the Museum’s collection. This, however, is the first pin in the collection in the shape of a drop of blood.

Throughout the United States, more than ten state Grand Lodges sponsor a Masonic blood donation program of some kind. The model for many programs involves a coordinator at each local lodge who schedules blood drives on location and encourages brethren to donate. Each unit of blood donated by individual lodge members is counted towards the total for the whole lodge.

Lapel pins are given to individual members who achieve certain blood donation milestones. Some, like this one, are awarded for an initial donation of one unit. Others are given when the Mason reaches a certain volume of blood donated. For example, the Virginia Grand Lodge Blood Program specifies that new donors and donations under two gallons receive the pin type shown here, with a “G” in the center of the Masonic square and compasses. When an individual donates more than two gallons, each subsequent pin bears the number of gallons, increasing by increments of two.

Some Masons donate impressive volumes of blood throughout their lives, such as Scottish Rite Mason Steven Fishman of Georgia, who has donated over thirty-seven gallons since the 1970s. Given that one gallon is equal to eight one-pint donations and that donors can only give once every eight weeks, achieving that volume would take a minimum of forty-five years.

As mentioned above, individual donations by members are counted towards the one lodge’s contribution to the blood program. In Rhode Island, for example, lodges who seek to earn the Grand Master’s Award are advised to participate in local blood drives and ensure at least ten percent of their eligible members give blood.

This new addition to the collection helps us tell the story of how Masons, as the Virginia Blood Program Manual says, “. . . facilitate donations in an organized and craftsman-like fashion . . .”

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Reference and Further Reading:


Hurricane Gavel

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Gavel, ca. 1939. Massachusetts. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2657.

High in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, there is a grove of Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). In the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection cared for at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, there is a gavel made from the wood of one of these trees. The story of this gavel – from seeds to storage – brings together natural science and Masonic ingenuity.

In the early 1900s, Charles Sargent (1841-1927), the first Director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, wanted to add examples of Cedrus libani to the collection of trees and shrubs at the site. However, these trees – which are mentioned in the Bible – grew primarily in the warmer climate of Lebanon and did not seem suited for New England weather. With the help of German naturalist Walter Siehe (1859-1928), Sargent was able to locate a forest of Cedars of Lebanon in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey. These trees grew further north and at higher altitudes and the two men thought they might also grow in Massachusetts.

In early 1902, Siehe shipped a number of cedar cones to Sargent and the trees were propagated in the greenhouses at the Arboretum. They started well and were planted on the grounds. By 1930, the Turkish Cedars of Lebanon were growing well and producing their own seed cones. The experiment was a success.

Then came the Hurricane of 1938, one of the most severe storms in New England history. The storm devastated the forests of the Northeast, destroying an estimated two billion trees in New York and New England. In the Arboretum, at least five of the Turkish cedars fell victim to the storm. (Happily, in 2022, eight of the original trees still survive on site.) As for the hurricane-damaged ones, a group of local Masons “grasped the opportunity to perpetuate these trees Masonically,” as one of them later said.

William Judd (1888-1946) was a member of Eliot Lodge in Dorchester and a gardener at Arnold Arboretum. During the clean-up after the hurricane, he and Welby McCollum (1887-1952) of West Roxbury Lodge decided to use some of the cedar wood to make a gavel. Given that McCollum worked as a builder, he may have crafted the piece.

After the gavel was completed, it was given to West Roxbury Lodge’s Past Master, Alexander McKechnie (1887-1965). He wrote out the story of the gavel on two typewritten pages – kept with the item – as a draft of his planned speech for a January 1940 presentation to West Roxbury Lodge. McKechnie mentioned in a handwritten addendum that he intended to present the gavel to the lodge and thence to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts if desired. His note is addressed to Joseph Earl Perry (1884-1983), then-Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, and ends, “If you decide to put this gavel in the Museum you can pick out the important points in the above for a small card.” This small piece of material culture made of wood more than one-hundred-twenty years old still has a big story to tell.

Reference and Further Reading:

Anthony S. Aiello and Michael S. Dosmann. “The Quest for the Hardy Cedar-of-Lebanon,” Arnoldia, Volume 65, Issue 1 (2007). https://arboretum.harvard.edu/stories/the-quest-for-the-hardy-cedar-of-lebanon/


Annin & Smith, Masonic Certificate Engravers

In 1801 the bylaws of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts specified that Master Masons be provided with a “diploma, printed on parchment, with a device emblematical of, and suited to, the Genius and Design of Masonry….” As described in this regulation, the document would also mention that the holder’s lodge had been authorized by the Grand Lodge and would bear the signatures of the Master Mason, his lodge’s officers and the Grand Secretary. This diploma, when presented at another lodge, helped prove the holder was a Mason in good standing—a brother entitled to a warm welcome, hospitality and, in some cases, charity. 

From surviving examples dated after 1801, it appears that Boston artisan Samuel Hill (c. 1765-c. 1809) engraved a version of the diploma outlined in the 1801 bylaws. His design featured allegorial  figures, representing faith, hope, and charity, surrounding a globe resting on a plinth. On the globe, the details about the Master Mason and signatures of lodge officers were filled in.  The Grand Secretary attested to the lodge’s status on lines printed for that purpose on the face of the plinth. 

Lodge No 28 J R Smith
Master Mason certificate issued to Richard Colton, Harmony Lodge (Northfield, Massachusetts), 1815. Designed and engraved by John Reubens Smith (1775-1849), Boston, Massachusetts, 1812. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, MA 007.

By 1811, a committee of the Grand Lodge “were of the opinion” that the distribution of new diplomas “requires some new regulations.” The following year the Grand Secretary noted that the engraved plate from which the certificates were printed was “so worn that fair and legible impressions could no longer be taken from it.”  At the same meeting a committee was appointed to “order such repairs on the plate…, or procure a new engraving, as they may deem expedient….” That year an English artist working in Boston, John Reubens Smith (1775-1849), engraved a fresh plate  (pictured at left) based on Hill’s earlier design. 

Only five years later, in 1816, another committee recommended that the diploma plate be repaired or a new one ordered.  In 1817 this committee developed a “new form for a Master’s Diploma.”  The Grand Lodge approved the form and gave permission for the committee to have it “engraved and made ready for use.” To undertake the engraving work, the Grand Lodge turned to the partners, George Girdler Smith (1795-1878) and William B. Annin (1791-1839). The pair likely met as fellow apprentices with the Boston engraver Abel Bowen (1790-1850). They went into business together around 1816.  John Ritto Penniman (1782-1841), a Boston artist, designed the new diploma with an artist identified only as Mills.

In 1819 both Annin and Smith received their Masonic degrees in Boston; Smith at Columbian Lodge, Annin at The Massachusetts Lodge. Smith became an active Mason, both holding offices at the blue lodges he belonged to and at the Grand Lodge. As partners, Annin and Smith engraved certificates for many organizations: the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, fire companies, missionary societies and other associations.  They also produced illustrations and maps for numerous publications. The pair dissolved their partnership around 1833. Annin died by suicide six years later.

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Master Mason certificate issued to Walton Felch, Fayette Lodge (Charlton, Massachusetts), 1825. Designed by John Ritto Penniman (1782-1841) and Mills (dates unknown), engraved by William B. Annin (1791-1839) and George Girdler Smith (1795-1878), Boston, Massachusetts, ca. 1819. Collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, GL2004.2546.

Based on signed and dated surviving examples, the Grand Lodge began using Annin and Smith’s diploma in 1819. After his partnership with Annin ended, it appears Smith retained the plate for the diploma and produced copies for the Grand Lodge as requested.  In 1857, prompted by a query about a bill from the Grand Lodge, Smith described his long-standing arrangement with the organization: “The Master Mason’s Diploma belonging to the Gd Lodge of Mass. was to the best of my recollection, engraved about the year 1820.  The price of Diplomas was then I believe 75 cts., including parchment of course….”  Annin and Smith's engraving enjoyed a long run as the Grand Lodge's diploma. The Grand Lodge issued it to new Master Masons through the 1850s.

For more examples of Masonic certificates and diplomas, see the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website.

 

 References:

Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1792-1815 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Caustic-Claflin Company, 1905) 193, 415, 504, 529.

Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1815-1825 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Caustic-Claflin Company) 58-59, 74-75, 126.

 Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1856-1864 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Caustic-Claflin Company) 71, 100-103.

 

 

 

 


10 Years of Blogging - and Masonic impostors!

A1980_013_011DS_webToday, we celebrate ten years of blogging! Returning to the subject of our very first blog post—Masonic impostors—we highlight a circular letter issued in February 1872 by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to all of the lodges under its jurisdiction. The circular letter warns lodges against admitting non-members into the lodge and and that care should be taken to enforce the Grand Lodge’s regulations for verifying whether visiting Masons are genuinely Masons and not impostors. Additionally, the circular warns lodges of three men in particular – John H. Bean, George Downes, and Asa Smith.

Many Masonic impostors, especially during this time period, pretended to be Freemasons in need of relief or charity and defrauded lodges by scamming them out of money. These three individuals, however, were doing something different. They were said to “communicate the Degrees in Freemasonry to any one who will pay him a small sum of money.” The word “communicate” has a special meaning in Freemasonry. To communicate a degree means to simply verbally describe the degree to the candidate as a form of initiation, as opposed to the more familiar form of initiation (known as conferring), in which the candidate participates in a ceremony conducted by lodge members.

The circular was reprinted in the April 1, 1872 issue of The Freemasons’ Monthly Magazine as part of an article entitled “A Caution Against Impostors,” in which the writer notes that John H. Bean began his Masonic impositions in New Hampshire, before coming down to Massachusetts. Two years later, Bean was still being reported in Masonic circles as an impostor. The February 1874 issue of The New England Freemason quoted the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, who colorfully referred to Bean as "a pestilent fellow who ingloriously fled from Massachusetts," and went on to describe Bean as a person “who has figured so extensively in different parts of the United States humbugging the people by palming upon them a spurious Masonry.” The Grand Master also reported that a photograph of John H. Bean had been obtained and distributed in order to help stall his efforts to further defraud Masons.

As for what eventually happened to George Downes, Asa Smith, and John H. Bean, it is unclear. But the story of Masonic impostors trying to defraud Freemasons and of Masonic organizations trying to spread information about known impostors by distributing circulars and photographs is a familiar one. If you'd like to read more on the topic, be sure to check out all of our posts about Masonic impostors from the past ten years.

 

Caption:

Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Circular Warning Against Masonic Impostors, February 8, 1872. Gift of Columbian Lodge, Boston, Massachusetts, courtesy of Mrs. Godfrey S. Tomkins, MA 002.


The North Shore Lace Industry

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Masonic Apron, 1780-1800, Unidentified Maker, Probably Massachusetts, Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts Collection, GL2004.0143. Photograph by David Bohl.

I love learning about regional styles of craft and the cultural reasons that associate a particular style or design with a specific area. This is why when I saw a striking apron from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts on long-term loan to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, I was excited.

As recounted in Curiosities of the Craft the name “William O’Brien” is written on the underside of the apron’s flap. William O’Brien (1753-1784) was a member of the O’Brien family of Machias, Maine. William's brother, the famous Captain Jeremiah

O'Brien (1744-1818), is credited with capturing a British ship during the first naval battle of the American Revolution. The most common story associated with this apron was that it was worn during the procession held in memory of George Washington in 1800. However, this story conflicts with existing dates since William O’Brien died in Spain in 1784 and he would have been unable to participate in the processions. It is possible that the apron may have belonged to William but was worn by one of his brothers for the procession. William was a member of the Philanthropic Lodge in Marblehead, Massachusetts, while Jeremiah belonged to the St. Andrews Lodge of Boston.

The apron is made of white leather with “Memento Mori” (Remember Death) written in black ink across the front. While it is easy to be drawn in by this intriguing message, the black lace trimming on the apron also helps to illuminate the object’s history. The lace’s pattern is nearly identical to a pattern made in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Ipswich was the home of a lace industry from approximately the 1750s to 1840. A sample from

Whipple House detailWhipple House detail from The Laces of Ipswich by Marta Cotterell Raffel. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

the Whipple House in Ipswich, an Ipswich historic property named for its first owner, entrepreneur Captain John Whipple (1596-1669), shows striking similarities to the Grand Lodge apron. Both use thicker thread (called gimp) to outline parts of the design. The “spider” motif pattern under the gimp outline near the scalloped edge of the apron lace is very similar to the Whipple House sample. In Laces of Ipswich, Marta Cotterell Raffel explains that lace makers developed the Whipple House pattern in the region. In fact, the Whipple House sample was sent to the Library of Congress as part of a survey of early regional American industries. The marked similarity between the lace on the apron and the Whipple House lace sample supports the story that this apron originated in New England.

No matter who wore the apron, the time and places William and his brothers were active in a time and place when Ipswich lace would have been available. Due to trade embargoes and boycotts of British goods, Ipswich lace may have been a patriotic and also a practical decision. Though delicate and purely ornamental, this black lace helps tell a story of early industry on the North Shore and of the men who fought to win American Independence.

 Kayla Bishop is a volunteer in the Museum's collections department. For the past 5 months, Kayla has assisted in all aspects of collections management. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

 

References

Marta Cotterell Raffel, The Laces of Ipswich (Lebanon, New Hampshire, 2003); 86-87, 142-143.

Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling and Catherine Compton Swanson, Curiosities of the Craft:  Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection (Boston and Lexington, Massachusetts:  Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 2013), 234.


A Freemason's Heart

2013_026_1DP1DBIn late 2013, when Supreme Council staff packed up to move down to their new offices inside the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library building, a number of treasures were found in storage spaces and were added to the Museum’s collection.  One of the oldest items discovered was this engraving titled “Freemasons Heart.”  Dating to about 1820, the engraving depicts a large heart under compasses and an all-seeing eye and flanked by allegorical figures of Liberty and Justice.  The heart is divided into sections, each labeled with a virtue central to Masonic teachings, such as fidelity, mercy and charity.  At the center of the heart is a space marked “Christianity” with a G and square and compasses emblem on a Bible.  A verse below the Bible reads “The Bible rules our faith without factions, the square and compass rules our lives and actions.”

When we add a new object to our collection, we catalog it into our database system so we can track it for use in our exhibitions, programs and publications.  We try to do as much research as we can, although that can be an ongoing process, as it will be for this print.  We have learned some history about it, but we still have a number of questions that require further study.  Unfortunately, we do not know much about who originally owned this particular example.  A handwritten inscription on the back of the frame reads “Cap. Joseph Burnett, Stowe, Vermont.”  Possibly, this is the Joseph Burnett born in 1816 who died in 1875, but additional research is needed to conclusively identify him.  It does make sense that the engraving would have been owned in Vermont because the engraver and publisher produced this print in that state.

Engraver Moody Morse Peabody (1789-1866) and publisher Ebenezer Hutchinson worked together in the Quechee area of Vermont, near the New Hampshire border.  As early as 1819, the two men produced a map of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Additional research is ongoing about the lives of these two men.  Scholars George R. Dalphin and Marcus A. McCorison were able to track Peabody, who was born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to Vermont and then to Whitehall, New York, in 1826.  Later he moved to Utica, New York, where he was listed in city directories from 1828 to 1840 as an engraver and copperplate printer.  He died in Ontario, Canada, in 1866.  Less information is currently known about Hutchinson; there are a couple of men with this name in the same general area around the time he was active, so it is difficult to know which one he was.

It seems likely that Hutchinson and Peabody were Freemasons.  The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection, on extended loan to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, includes an engraved Royal Arch apron that is signed “Printed and Sold by E. Hutchinson Hartford Queechy Village VT.”  Masonic scholar Kent Walgren found an 1820 advertisement in the Vermont Republican newspaper for Peabody who was selling Masonic aprons and diplomas through Hutchinson.  Walgren also suggests that the inclusion of the motto “Supporters of Government” at the top of the print may allude to the Illuminati scare of the late 1790s.  In an attempt to win back public approval and explain that American Freemasons were not part of the alleged Illuminati plot, the printmakers noted that they backed government.  If you know of other Masonic prints by Ebenezer Hutchinson or Moody Morse Peabody, please let us know by writing a comment below!

Freemasons Heart, ca. 1820, Moody Morse Peabody, engraver, Ebenezer Hutchinson, publisher, Hartford, Vermont.  Gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 2013.026.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 


Busy Beaver Lodge

2014_099_6DS1One of my favorite things about being a curator is connecting objects to each other. Recently, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library received a photograph of the officers of Beaver Lodge in Belmont, Massachusetts, in 1932. Two rows of men are arranged in their Masonic best in the lodge room with the Master’s chair and two columns visible behind them. They wear aprons, collars and jewels. The Deacon and Steward each hold their respective rods. Accompanying the photo in the gift to the Museum & Library were these rods – a wonderful opportunity to connect the objects to the photograph to help visitors and researchers to visualize how the lodge room looked in the early 1930s and the scale of the rituals that these men performed. 2014_099_9DP1DB

Beaver Lodge was chartered in Belmont in 1922. The population of the town had doubled between 1910 and 1920 and would do so again between 1920 and 1930. Members of the existing lodge, Belmont Lodge, numbered more than 500 and the officers realized that the time had come to form a second lodge in town. The name “Beaver Lodge” was chosen due to the location of Beaver Brook and the beaver ponds and dams nearby, as well as the inclusion of the beaver on the official seal of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. 2014_099_8DP2DB

The lodge’s history recounts that “most of the Lodge equipment was donated by various Brethren, and the aprons, jewels, collars and other articles of equipment procured as soon as they could be made.” Presumably, this included the two rods shown here. Both are decorated with silver depictions of the lodge seal and the top of each is engraved “Beaver Lodge.” The Deacon’s rod is also marked “Presented to Thomas Stewart,” suggesting that he served the lodge in this office at some point. Stewart (1885-1968), who was born in Scotland, worked as an electrician and joined Belmont Lodge in 1917. He became a charter member of Beaver Lodge when it formed.

Reference:

Amos L. Taylor, “History of Beaver Lodge,” Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the Year 1947 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Cosmos Press, Inc., 1948), 330-341.

Beaver Lodge Officers, 1932, Fairfield Studio, Boston, Massachusetts. Gift of Keith C. MacKinnon, 2014.099.6.

Beaver Lodge Deacon’s Rod and Steward’s Rod, circa 1922, United States. Gift of Keith C. MacKinnon, 2014.099.8 and .9. Photographs by David Bohl.


Skeletons in the Lodge Room

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As we often like to remind our readers, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects materials associated with any and all American Masonic and fraternal groups.  This recent acquisition is a pin that was produced for members of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) in 1905.  The two American Scottish Rite jurisdictions co-exist in the United States.  The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) oversees Scottish Rite groups in fifteen states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.  The SJ administers Scottish Rite groups in the other 35 states, as well as Washington, D.C. where their headquarters is located.  The NMJ founded the Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1975.

The two jurisdictions don’t always follow the same ritual, but the symbols on this pin were also used by the NMJ during the 1800s and early 1900s.  An illustration in The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, written by Charles McClenachan (1829-1896) in 1867 – who served as Chair of the NMJ’s Ritual Committee from 1882 to 1896 – shows the same skeleton holding a chalice and a banner (at the left side of the illustration - click on it to see a larger version).  This prop was used in the ritual for the fraternity’s honorary 33rd degree ritual. When McClenachan wrote his book in 1867, the Scottish Rite conferred degrees in much the same way as local lodges.  McClenachan’s illustration shows the men wearing sashes over their street clothes.  A few years later, members changed their rituals to theatrical endeavors complete with sets, costumes and props. RARE14.7.M126 1867DP1DB

The shape and materials of this pin were popular among fraternal groups during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The shield shape relates to fraternal symbolism, while the enamel face allowed for colorful and detailed decoration.  The Museum’s collection includes at least one similar pin associated with the NMJ from 1901, while the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection includes several round enamel pins produced for local Knights Templar Commanderies in 1895.

This pin was probably given or sold to attendees of the SJ’s biennial meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 1905.  Along the bottom is the Latin phrase, “Post Tenebras Lux,” which translates to “Light After Darkness.”

Top: Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction pin, 1905, unidentified maker, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2014.057.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Frontispiece, The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 1867, Charles T. McClenachan, author, Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Company, publisher, New York, New York, Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 


New to the Collection: A Masonic Punch Bowl

Punch Bowl Inside BottomAs the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s current lobby exhibition, “Called to Refreshment,” makes clear, Freemasons often socialized as part of their meetings.  Masonic lodges invested in pitchers, platters, bowls and other kinds of serving ware for the time when they were “called from labor to refreshment.”  Freemasons – then and now – also socialized outside of the lodge.  Using objects decorated with Masonic symbols on these occasions let everyone know that their owner identified with Freemasonry and valued his association with the group.

This bowl, which was recently acquired by the Museum & Library, is almost thirteen inches in diameter and shows a total of eleven transfer-printed images in the bottom and on the inner and outer sides.  Bowls of this size and shape were generally used to serve punch.  The image inside the bottom of the bowl features two classical figures with a series of five architectural columns.  Several Masonic tools are scattered on the ground.  A verse reads “To heavens high Architect all praise / All gratitude be given / Who design’d the human soul to raise / By secrets sprung from heaven.”  This verse appeared as early as 1769 in A Candid Disquisition of the Principles and Practices…of Free and Accepted Masons by Wellins Calcott.

Punch Bowl Masonic SceneThe decorations on the outside alternate between Masonic and non-Masonic.  The Masonic image shows a temple with three figures wearing their aprons and other Masonic symbols.  Another image is American in subject with a liberty cap at the top.  Dating back to ancient Rome, the liberty cap was often used as a symbol of freedom during the American and French Revolutions.  A verse below the cap reads “As he tills the rich glebe the old peasant shall tell, / While his bosom with Liberty glows. / How your Warren expir’d, how Montgomery fell. / And how Washington humbled your foes.”  These lines come from the poem “American Freedom,” written by Edward Rushton (1756-1814) of Liverpool, England. Punch Bowl Liberty Cap

The name of the original owner, Ephraim McFarland, is printed inside the bottom of the bowl.  The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts lists an Ephraim McFarland as a member of Boston’s St. Andrew’s Lodge.  This man was initiated in January 1801 and received the second degree in December 1801, but his membership record does not indicate that he ever received the third degree of Master Mason.  Information given to the Museum & Library with the bowl suggested that the original owner was the Ephraim McFarland who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1763 and married in 1782. 

Further research suggests that the bowl’s owner might actually have been the Ephraim McFarland who lived in Belfast, Maine.  This Ephraim was born in 1765 in Boothbay, Maine, and died in 1849, also in Maine.  This Ephraim was a ship captain who sailed between Maine and Boston.  He both owned and commanded several ships.  His travel to Boston would have provided opportunities to join St. Andrew’s Lodge and to purchase this bowl.

Masonic punch bowl, 1790-1820, England, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.029.


New to the Collection: Master Mason Apron

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Master Mason Apron, 1800-1820, unidentified maker, United States, Museum purchase, 2014.115.3. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library was very excited to purchase this apron at auction last fall.  It has a rather jaunty painted decoration on silk.  The central image includes a mosaic pavement with two columns supporting a distinctive pedimented archway, hung with pink drapery.  At each side is a taller column, one with an allegorical figure of Faith, the other with Charity.  In the center, in the midst of a blue sky, sits a figure of Hope with an anchor.  Scattered along the sides are several Masonic symbols, often included on Master Mason aprons.  Unfortunately, we do not know who made or owned this apron.

But, it does bear a striking similarity in style and design to an apron now in the collection of the Detroit Historical Society.  That apron shows the same blue and white mosaic pavement and a very similar pedimented archway with drapery, although in blue rather than gold.  It also has the allegorical figures of Faith, Hope and Charity.  According to family history, this apron was owned by Oliver Williams (1774-1834), who became a Freemason in Corinthian Lodge in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1813, but moved his family to Detroit a few years later.

Family history for that apron attributes it to a William Marshall.  And there was a William Marshall in Boston who joined the city’s Lodge of St. Andrew in 1797.  However, he is listed as a merchant on his membership card at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.  Advertisements in the Boston newspapers from 1808 to 1815 note that Marshall specialized in wallpapers:  he “has on hand, a good assortment of new figured Paper Hangings and Borders, some of which are his own making,” as well as beds, bed ticking, mattresses and upholstered furniture.  Given this evidence, this apron may have been purchased from Marshall’s store – or there was another William Marshall who worked actively as an artist. 

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Master Mason Apron, 1800-1820, unidentified maker, United States, gift of Robert U. Brown, 85.76.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

The pedimented archway that is so prominent on this apron calls to mind the elaborate doorway pediments that were popular in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts during the mid-1700s.  Perhaps the artist of this apron was from that area, or had visited and was influenced by the doorways.  The bright color scheme was popular during the early 1800s.  Here are examples of two other aprons from our collection that employ similar colors and symbols.  The history of ownership and manufacture has been lost for each, but taken together with the one we just purchased, we can see that Freemasons of the early 1800s enjoyed bright colors and a similar rendering of central Masonic symbols.

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Master Mason Apron, ca. 1836, unidentified maker, United States, Museum purchase, 98.063.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

To learn more about our apron collection, see our new book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, available June 2015 at www.scottishritenmj.org/shop.